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When tea becomes the narrative of a poetry book
The book Tea: A Concoction of Dissonance is a collaborative work of poetry and art on tea by two poets and an artist. Written by P Ahilan and Geetha Sukumaran, the art is done by Vaidheki.
In a chat with DT Next, the poets and the artist talk about their writing and artistic process. “The time with my cup of tea allows me to travel inward. I get inspired by the mundane activities of life on my pathway — the trees, plants, flowers, kitchen ingredients, human touch, etc. I use these elements to form my ‘still life’ arrangements and all of these become metaphorical and represent life as I see it. Here, the cup represents my body, ’a female body’, where all weaves of traumas boil,” says Vaidheki.
When Vaidheki was drawing the teacups, poet Ahilan was in her house. He reminisces, “Her long discussions over tea especially the domestic aspect of tea-making. My horizons of tea expanded to different spheres, unfolding various perspectives. I shared this idea with Vaidheki and Geetha and the three of us decided to collaborate — which came out as a concoction of three different reflections on tea.”
The main ingredient of Ahilan’s poems is the politics of mundanity or everydayness in cultural practices. “I found mundane activities more ‘political’ than what is commonly known as ‘political’ and I was able to ‘re’view different layers of tea –gender, ethnicity, class, caste, nationalism and marketing forces that shape the contemporary along with some personal experiences with the memories of tea. The ‘roots’ of my ‘tea’ are from Sri Lanka,” says Ahilan.
Most of us will relate to our childhood memory of someone making many cups of tea or coffee depending on the family’s preference. Geetha says that her childhood in Coimbatore was filled with such days of endless cups of tea being made and served.
“The poem about my mother having her tea sitting on the washing stone is not just about her. Amma is a metaphor for women who feel their body and soul only in the first cup of tea they have. In the poems, I attempt to recollect varied flavours of tea. Tea, just like poetry, is a very creative expression of love, loss and violence. Along with the tastes, emotions, conversations and silences that surround the ‘tea’ moments, captured my imagination. All the translations in the book are done by Vidhya Sreenivasan,” says Geetha.